Nandy Millette ’18 was born in Trinidad, the eighth of nine children in her family. She was given her name by her mother who was inspired by a television documentary. “It was a true story set in South Africa, about a Zulu tribe fighting the British. Nandi was the mother of the head of the tribe,” explains Millette. “My mother described her character as strong and commanding. That’s what she wanted me to be.”
In many ways, Millette has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. She was the first of her family to go to college, attending the University of the West Indies and graduating in 2011 with a degree in management studies, economics, and finance. She worked for world renowned companies like Morgan Stanley, KPMG, and EY.
Then, like her mother, she was also inspired by a television program. “The starring role in the show was a female lawyer. The character was very commanding, well-respected, smart, strong and capable. I wanted to be that.” Millette applied to top law schools in America and chose the one that offered her the most financial support: Cornell Law School.
“I arrived in Ithaca on a bus from New York City,” recalls Millette. “I had one big duffle bag with no snow gear and no clothes for the winter weather.” But she had determination and focus and graduated early, because she did pro bono work and was able to take the bar exam in March. She started a job in May when most of her peers were just celebrating graduation. “I was very focused on getting from point A to point B.”
She found a new home in Linklaters, at the New York office of a large international law firm that prides itself on recruiting and developing “exceptional people empowering them to do and think differently.” She says she was “made for tech” where she is both a legal and business advisor to innovative companies. She loves using her creativity and problem-solving skills to help clients build a business case and achieve success within the confines of laws that have not fully kept up with the technological revolution in blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
“One hallmark of an incredible lawyer is the ability not only to understand novel and complicated scenarios, technologies, and business relationships, but also to be able to explain it in an understandable way, in other words to translate complexity to simplicity,” says Joshua Ashley Klayman, Linklater’s U.S. head of fintech and head of blockchain and digital assets. “This is especially tough in cutting edge areas like digital assets, where
new and rapidly evolving technology is matched against existing and often overlapping regulatory frameworks. Nandy absolutely has those gifts, and so much more. She is smart and perceptive, dedicated to clients, insightful, curious—all the things that make an exceptional technology lawyer and an exceptional person.”
“Nandy has an extraordinary work ethic coupled with a very vibrant energy and a zest for life,” says Henry Makeham, who was a senior associate at Linklaters when Millette joined the firm. Makeham is currently vice president at the Public Investment Fund in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “As we know, tech is obviously a magnet for the best and brightest globally. And with Nandy’s Caribbean background and her international experience and her experience at one of the best law schools, she’s been able to hone, leverage, and really put to practical and positive use a lot of her hard skill set (including the legal theory and doctrine she learned at Cornell Law School). Coupled with her broader life experiences and human interactions, and that touch of connectivity she is able to easily bring to any table, she bridges the world of lawyers and fastgrowth tech companies and the broader global community.”
Millette treasured her time at Linklaters, and is now an associate at Fenwick & West, working with clients that are global innovators in technology. She focuses on providing strategic counseling to Web 3.0 technology companies with a focus on blockchain and cryptocurrency-related matters such as centralized and decentralized cryptocurrency designs and digital asset exchanges, DAOs and decentralized governance, airdrops, token offerings, token generation events, securities law compliance and venture capital financings.
“Sometimes there is no precedent for the work that I do,” says Millette. “Web 3.0 is built around the concept of a decentralized community, but I believe that there must be structures in place to protect the community. Privacy and autonomy are important in Web 3.0, but so is a structure that builds trust.”
Millette is cognizant that she is a rare entity—a Black woman in the tech field dominated by men in both business and law. Further, she has a Caribbean accent! But that certainly has not limited her rapid rise in the tech field. She shares a recent story that demonstrates her ability to adjust comfortably and quickly to any setting: “I walked into one of the fanciest restaurants in New York City, the Grammercy Tavern, to attend a gathering of Web 3.0 founders and venture capitalists. I was the only lawyer in the room, and I was there to listen, not to talk. But they ended up asking me so many questions, and because my firm is a leader in the Web 3.0 field, I became the center of conversation. I brought in two clients to the firm that night.”
That moment in the Grammercy Tavern meant more to Millette than just business success. “I had always dreamed of walking into a room and being respected for my knowledge,” says Millette, perhaps reflecting on that TV lawyer character who had inspired her. “I called my mom and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening!’”
Her colleagues are not surprised. Andrea Louie works with Millette as an associate at Fenwick & West. “Nandy’s impact on the web3 field and community is significant,” says Louie. “Because of her work experience, she has a strong business sense that makes her invaluable to our crypto clients as she is able to provide legal advice through the lens of a businessperson. Additionally, Nandy is paving the way for other BIPOC women to be seen and heard as expert voices in an emerging and intellectually rigorous field.”
In fact, Millette hopes to inspire BIPOC women and others who need encouragement to thrive professionally and personally. She started a personal blog several years ago, partly as a creative outlet to entertain readers, and partly to connect with people around the globe who might benefit from her advice and experiences. She has used social media to tell personal stories about reducing her own credit card debt from nearly $30,000 to zero, coping with the isolation of the pandemic and WFH (work-from-home) fatigue, and improving physical fitness and emotional health.
She is transparent in her blogs, sharing her personal feelings and anxieties over everything from health to fertility to divorce. “This is how I give back. I know a lot of people back home in Trinidad look up to me,” she says. “I want them to see how you can be flawed and yet still be highly successful. My role model is my mom. She’s flawed, but she’s also the most courageous person that I know.” Millette believes that individuals who are able to openly discuss flaws and anxieties and allow themselves to be vulnerable, demonstrate courage and strength.
Millette says one of her regrets is that she was so focused on excelling in law school that she didn’t take time to build strong social connections with her fellow students. “I’m very social, but I had tunnel vision then and just put my head down to get the work done.” Now, as an engaged board member of the Cornell Law Young Professionals Network, part of the Alumni Association, she is making up for those past regrets. She wants to be there for other young lawyers who are still “trying to figure it all out” and help them build a network of support for whatever lies ahead. “The field I’m in really has no ceiling and no floor,” Millette says, with a sense of excitement and adventure in forging new pathways for young lawyers.
Former colleague Henry Markham says Nandy brings the ability “to see the forest for the trees” along with a sense of humor and fun to her high pressure, demanding role. “Coupled with Cornell Law School’s educational rigor and focus on holistic development of their students, it’s very clear Nandy has benefited from her Cornell experience and, when merged with her life experience she brought into the legal profession, she’s one of these rare lawyers that’s able to connect empathy, technology, transaction and outcomes. That is a rare combination.”
~ EILEEN KOREY